2022 Cadillac CT5-V Blackwing Review - That Rare Moment When Everything Clicks
2022 Cadillac CT5-V Blackwing Fast Facts
Back in 2016, I had plenty of nice things to say about Cadillac’s flagship performance model of the day, the third-generation CTS-V. But while Cadillac’s naming conventions have become much more convoluted over the past six years, on paper the CT5-V Blackwing seems like more of the same: A big, boosted V8 still remains under the hood, and it’s still underpinned by an updated version of GM’s Alpha platform. The interior still isn’t on par with its German rivals, and because it’s still rear-wheel drive, it’s still a few ticks behind its all-wheel-drive competition in the sprint to 60 MPH.
Yet despite these objective facts, the CT5-V Blackwing proves to be a stone-cold revelation. Yes, the re-introduction of the six-speed manual transmission plays a significant role in that, but there’s much more going on here than just the availability of a third pedal. Not only has Cadillac addressed virtually all of the shortcomings that held the CTS-V back from venturing into instant-classic territory, they’ve refined and improved the formula in so many subtle ways that the CT5-V Blackwing feels like a totally different car.
And it’s not just fun on a good back road – it’s a joy to drive even under the most mundane, everyday circumstances. Quite frankly, I think this Caddy might go down in history as the high-water mark for sports sedans powered purely by internal combustion.
To understand exactly what the CT5-V Blackwing is, one must decrypt a bizarre series of corporate decisions that have taken place at Cadillac over the past few years. First off, this car does not get its motivation from the twin-turbocharged, 4.2-liter dual-overhead-cam Blackwing V8 that was found under the hood of the now-out-of-production CT6-V. Despite the fact that it was built from scratch and exclusive to Cadillac, the engine was unceremoniously sent to the boneyard (alongside the CT6-V itself) after less than 1,500 examples were produced in total.
Secondly, while the V models used to be Cadillac’s top-tier performance models and V-Sport models served as the mid-range offerings, the V models are now the midrange offerings while the Blackwing models are now the top dogs despite the fact that none of them actually have Blackwing engines. No amount of mental gymnastics will allow you to arrive at a logical explanation for this strategy, but thankfully there’s a lot to like here anyway.
Like the CTS-V before it, the CT5-V Blackwing gets its motivation from a modified version of the supercharged 6.2-liter LT4 V8 used in the C7 Corvette Z06 and sixth-generation Camaro ZL1. Here it makes 668 horsepower and 659 pound-feet of torque for gains of 28 hp and 29 lb-ft over its predecessor, but the big news on the powertrain front is what that engine is hooked up to.
GM’s lethargic eight-speed automatic has been tossed out in favor of an honest-to-goodness six-speed manual with automatic rev-matching as the default gearbox. A 10-speed automatic transmission is also optional, and buyers who opt to go that route will score a pair of magnesium shift paddles as well as slightly more urgent acceleration, but this is a situation where rowing your own is more than worth a minor sacrifice to performance. The CT5-V Blackwing’s clutch is perfectly weighted, requiring just right amount of effort to feel substantial but not so much that it gets cumbersome in traffic, and the engagement point is spot-on. Add a shifter with smooth engagement and short throws and you’ve got a drivetrain package that makes the CT5-V Blackwing satisfying to pilot regardless of whether you’re hunting down apexes or just cruising around town.
Far more subdued than the banshee wail of the twin-screw mounted on top of the Hellcat Hemi, the LT4 offers just a hint of blower whine here and there, and it’s entirely masked by the active exhaust system as soon as the revs start to climb. Off-throttle in its sportier drive mode settings, the quad-tipped system offers up just the right amount of pops and crackles to keep things interesting without being obnoxious. Pin the throttle to the floor and the three-pedal CT5-V Blackwing is capable of hitting 60 MPH in 3.6 seconds, and it’ll keep pulling past 200 MPH if you let it, but the Caddy’s charms aren’t limited to just tire-melting grunt.
Outfitted with fourth-generation Magnetic Ride Control dampers that process changes in road conditions four times quicker than the previous system, along with stiffer spring rates, unique hollow stabilizer bars, and higher-rate bushings than the standard CT5-V, the CT5-V Blackwing’s ability to manage mid-corner bumps, high-speed undulations, and dance its way around faster corners is flat-out world-class. The Blackwing’s Michelin Pilot Sport 4S rubber isn’t as aggressive as the ultra-sticky Pirelli Pzero Corsa rubber that you’ll find on a BMW M5 CS, but the Cadillac makes up for it with better steering and more outright poise.
Aiding in that effort here is the optional carbon ceramic brake system, which sports the largest rotors ever bolted up a production Cadillac (15.75 inches up front, 14.6 in the rear). The pedal is reassuringly firm and the response is linear, and that makes it easy to be precise with the stopping power, but it’s also blissfully free of the grabbiness at the top of the pedal’s travel – an issue that’s still common with contemporary carbon ceramic brake systems in normal driving situations. And speaking of normal driving, the Caddy’s ride quality around town is simply unrivaled in the segment, delivering compliance that beats the air suspension of the Mercedes-AMG E63 S while also keeping body motions firmly in check.
Although the interior is one area where the Europeans remain clearly ahead when it comes to materials and overall quality, the Blackwing’s cabin is still a reasonably pleasant place to spend time. The 18-way adjustable heated and ventilated sport seats strike a great balance between comfort and performance, offering enough lateral bolstering to keep you securely in place when the driving gets interesting without making it a literal pain in the ass to get into and out of the car. And while the 10-inch touchscreen infotainment system doesn’t offer anything exceptional in terms of aesthetics or features, it’s still a huge improvement over the incredibly frustrating Cue system that was used in the CTS-V. Here the input response is quick, it supports wireless Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, and it comes standard with a decent sounding 15-speaker AKG audio system. That satisfies the majority of my personal infotainment demands, but those who’re looking for a wider range of built-in features might find the Cadillac system to be a bit underwhelming.
But anything that the CT5-V Blackwing might be lacking in terms of opulence or cachet it more than makes up for with heaps of supercharged V8 grunt, excellent chassis tuning, and sheer charm. Some of its rivals might be a bit quicker but none of them offer this level of involvement, and considering the fact that Cadillac has already announced that the current Blackwing models will be the last V models motivated by internal combustion, traditionalists would be wise to smoke ‘em while we’ve got ‘em.
What’s New For 2022
The introduction of the CT5-V Blackwing puts a new apex predator at the top of Cadillac’s performance lineup. Along with its rowdy supercharged V8, the Blackwing scores more performance-focused chassis and suspension tuning, track-ready brakes and cooling, aerodynamic upgrades, and an array of interior and tech upgrades. The CT5-V Blackwing also marks the return of a six-speed manual transmission to Cadillac’s mid-sized sports sedan, but a 10-speed automatic is also available for those who would prefer to let someone else handle the gear changes.
Who Should Buy The 2022 Cadillac CT5-V Blackwing
Anyone who’s looking for a track-tuned, rear-wheel-drive sports sedan that’s more well-rounded than a Dodge Charger SRT Hellcat Redeye and far more engaging to drive than the usual suspects from Europe.
[Images © 2022 Bradley Iger/TTAC]
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